iPhone SDK: What does this mean for jailbreakers, suits?

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Information, as they say, wants to be free. This was the driving force behind the effort to jailbreak and write software for the iPhone. It is my suspicion, but this has never been proven, that most of the jailbreak and homebrew efforts has been clandestinely supported by Apple developers, ensuring a strong base of code even before the SDK was a glimmer in Steve’s eye. After all, the iPhone is an OS X/BSD computer at its core, and, as evidenced by the range and quality of homebrew software currently available, the tool chain used by homebrewers is very similar to the SDK used for OS X itself.

That said, what does this mean for us lazy buggers with off-network iPhones? As we’ve seen for the past year “activating” the phone is fairly trivial. Getting applications on it was trivial, and adding the phone to an alien network is trivial. Now, however, the entire process is much simpler. We can assume the iPhone will have an area of protected memory for third-party apps as well as a little bit of space for them to reside in the same way the iPhone was once divided into Media and System areas that could rarely touch each other.

So for the jailbreaking/modding community, this isn’t big news. It will require a bit more effort to activate the phones with the new firmware, but as we see activation hacks happen days if not hours of release.

As we see from today’s news, however, we’ve got some big news for enterprise use of the iPhone. Exchange support was the major enterprise complaint and that is now moot. Third-party apps and security were also on the wish list. Presumably this is now in play. Finally, with more control over the OS, IT shows can lock down lost iPhones in the wild, which is absolutely the biggest IT concern in the mix. All of this is in place and ready to go.

Will this open the iPhone for the enterprise? Sadly, I don’t think so. For a certain subset of “cool companies,” MacBooks and iPhones will become the devices of choice in the next few quarters. But I doubt sincerely that 1000 seat offices will ever go OS X, but I could be wrong. I do, however, see Linux entering that space, ushering OS X in along with it.

That said, I don’t think Steve was “forced” to open the SDK after early complaints. I don’t think the SDK was ready out of the box, that developers received help from Apple to “alpha test” the SDK, and that his talk of “web-based applications” was a temporary smokescreen.

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